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AG’s office contracts with national firm to consider opioid litigation

February 15, 2018

As numerous government agencies continue to fight the state’s growing opioid crisis, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office has contracted with a national law firm to help determine whether to pursue legal action against opioid manufacturers.

Attorney General Curtis Hill’s office announced Thursday the state has entered into a contract with Washington, D.C.-based Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC to “bolster the state’s legal analysis and litigation experience in this complex area of opioid accountability.” The contract is partly contingent upon the firm’s employment of Betsy Miller, a partner and co-chair of the Public Client Practice Group who “represents state attorneys general and municipalities in civil law enforcement investigations and enforcement actions.”

“Adding this firm to support our investigation is the next logical step in the multifaceted approach we have employed over the past several months,” Hill said in a statement.

In an interview with the Indiana Lawyer, Hill said his office has been reviewing “various options” for responding to the opioid crisis, including the possibility of suing prescription painkiller manufacturers for deceptive marketing practices. Nearly a dozen Indiana communities have filed similar lawsuits in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., against opioid manufacturers over the last year.

While Hill said he could not yet discuss all of the options being considered, the office has been trying to assess the damage the drug epidemic has caused “from a legal standpoint and tracing that damage back to particular accountabilities.” The contract with Cohen Milstein contract will strengthen his office’s ability to analyze the implications of the opioid crisis and determine the best course of action, Hill said.

“The magnitude of the problem and the scope as it relates nationally is such that it really requires extraordinary efforts that we don’t have available on a regular basis,” he said.

Under the contingency fee contract, the state will compensate Cohen Milstein as follows:

• 25 percent of any recovery between $2 million and $10 million

• 20 percent of any recovery between $10 million and $15 million

• 15 percent of any recovery between $15 million and $20 million

• 10 percent of any recovery between $20 million and $25 million

• 5 percent of any recovery in excess of $25 million

Spokespeople for Cohen Milstein did not return messages seeking comment on the contract, which runs from Jan. 10, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2024.

Before Thursday’s announcement, Hill said his office had prioritized the drug epidemic through a three-pronged approach: prevention, enforcement and treatment. From a prevention and enforcement perspective, Hill said his staff office has been working with law enforcement to address the interdiction of drugs coming into the state and looking into the possibility of creating localized drug task forces.

Hill has also been promoting his Jail Chemical Addictions Program, which he launched in 2017 in Boone and Dearborn counties. The program is based on the notion that incarceration can be more effective in helping offenders break their addictions than traditional treatment programs.     

As its efforts to combat the opioid crisis continue, Hill’s office could add to its opioid legal team again in the future, he said.

“I think it’s important to note this is just a phase in our overall legal strategy,” he said. “…With patience we’ll reach a conclusion, or at least an approach, that will be in the best interests of all Hoosiers.”

 

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